The response to a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School overshadowed many other education issues before the Florida Legislature this year.
It’s also an election year, which brings an earlier start to the legislative session and can limit policymaking bandwidth. But that didn’t stop lawmakers from creating multiple new programs and pushing several long-standing school choice priorities over the finish line.
Here’s a breakdown of what passed and what didn’t, as far as educational choice is concerned. For comparison, it’s worth looking at the agenda before the session started.
Victims of bullying or violence will have the ability to seek a transfer to another public school, or a scholarship to attend a private school. HB 7055
Charter schools that hope to open similar schools in new locations will be able to replicate twice per year, rather than just once, if they hope to open in areas that aren’t served by persistently low-performing schools. Districts that want to shut down charter schools will have to appear before the state Division of Administrative Hearings. HB 7055
Reading scholarshipsStudents who score level 1 or 2 on third- or fourth-grade reading tests will be able to apply for scholarships of $500. Their parents can use the scholarships to pay for books, tutors, summer programs or other reading-related expenses while they remain in public schools. HB 7055
Revisiting HB 7069
School districts will regain some flexibility to support district-wide programs with federal Title I funding. A new law could insulate districts and charters alike from the impact of last year’s law and related lawsuits. Funding for the Schools of Hope program will remain available for years to come. HB 7055/HB 5001
A bill headed to Gov. Rick Scott would keep school districts from adding hoops for homeschool families to jump through. And it would allow homeschool students to take career education courses offered by school districts. HB 731
A principal autonomy program will be open to every district in the state. Participating principals could manage networks of schools exempt from certain state education regulations if their districts create “innovation zones.” HB 7055
Homeschoolers will be able to take college courses for free, without having to pay for textbooks or meet academic requirements beyond those placed on their public-school peers.
A 2013 provision allowing articulation agreements to specify whether private schools or colleges are responsible for tuition and fees has been repealed. It’s not yet clear exactly what that will mean for private school students who want to take college courses while they’re still in high school. HB 7055
Did not pass
A bill allowing students who struggle academically in preschool to take an extra year of Voluntary Prekindergarten won broad support in a House committee but didn’t get far in a tight budget year. HB 951/SB 1192
Bills would have eliminated, or eased, the requirement that students with special needs enroll in public schools for a year before they can receive vouchers to attend a private school. Another bill would have helped parents get new evaluations that can lead to increased funding for their children’s McKay Scholarships. HB 829, SB 564